Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story
BBC 2 10:45pm
Eddie Izzard is one of the funniest comics around, and his surreal stand up has been playing to packed houses for 15 years. He’s also a pretty fascinating guy; as serious offstage as he is silly onstage, hopefully this film by Izzard’s former partner Sarah Townsend will shed some light on why he does what he does and on how he shapes and performs his act.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
ITV 1 6:30pm
David Yates’ first turn in the Potter director’s chair is one of the series best entries; lean and pacy, with the young stars really growing into their roles and a real sense of a growing threat and a march to war, a superior blockbuster.
ITV 1 10:15pm
For my money, Joe Wright’s sumptuous adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel never quite recaptures the brilliance of its opening 40 minutes, but its pleasures are many and varied, from an extraordinary tracking shot of the Normandy landings, to the clever score, to the performances of James McAvoy, Kiera Knightley and – especially – Saoirse Ronan, who won her first Oscar nomination for this part, aged just 14.
Nosferatu the Vampyre
BBC 2 1:50am
I’ve been wanting to see Werner Herzog’s take on Murnau’s silent classic for some time, and MMM writer Michael Ewins’ mention of it in his first Analysis article has made me even more intrigued. Being Herzog and Kinski this is bound to have its fair share of crazy, but the images I’ve seen are beautiful and Nosferatu was always the most frightening of cinematic vampires.
ITV 2 8:30pm
One of the great Christmas classics, Joe Dante’s anarchic little movie basically has It’s a Wonderful Life attacked by monsters, and is exactly as much fun as that implies. It’s replete with Dante’s nods to B-Movies and director cameos (watch for producer Steven Spielberg) and packed with hilarious lines. The Gremlins are wonderfully brought to life with Chris Walas’ practical effects and, of course, there’s THAT speech about why Phoebe Cates’ family don’t celebrate Christmas. Really, what more could you ask for?
The Truman Show
MORE 4 10:00pm
Jim Carrey’s first dramatic role is still his best performance, and this film about a man unwittingly living his whole life on TV now seems disturbingly close to reality. The Truman Show is one of the first films that made me think about cinema, and it still affects me on a lot of levels; it’s hilariously funny, thought provoking and deeply moving (if you don’t cry at the end check for the presence of a heart).
ITV 4 9:00pm
Ah, Christmas. Tis’ the season for 80’s action movies. It’s easy to forget that Lethal Weapon (like Die Hard) is seasonally set, but the mix of action set pieces and tongue in cheek dialogue courtesy of Shane Black is a joy any time of the year.
ITV 2 11:15pm
For me, this adaptation of the 60’s TV series is one of the best rollercoaster rides of the 90’s. Harrison Ford is on top form as the wrongly convicted man searching for the one armed man who killed his wife, an Oscar Winning Tommy Lee Jones enjoys chomping scenery as the man trying to catch him, director Andrew Davis stages some brilliant large scale action and chase set pieces and the whole thing is just one big, satisfying, endlessly entertaining ride.
Last Action Hero
Channel 5 6:45pm
Talking of underrated 90’s action movies, this Arnie starring spoof is much cleverer, and much more fun than its reputation and box office take might suggest. Schwarzenegger is actually pretty effective as the action movie hero who first has to deal with a kid from the real world being sucked through the screen into a movie and then with crossing over into the real world. Charles Dance has an enormously good time as the bad guy, especially when he too enters the real world (“I’ve just killed someone, I did it on purpose”) and if it starts to try to fit in too many ideas towards the end of the film, that’s forgivable if only because of the earlier Hamlet spoof (“To be or not to be… Not to be.”)
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Channel 4 8:50am
This is a Christmas staple for me. The gags are funny, the puppetry is wonderful, Michael Caine makes for an excellent Scrooge, the Muppets all fit beautifully into their roles (I especially love Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker’s cameo) and even the songs are solid. It’s not the most faithful telling of the story, but hits all the important points and is endlessly charming and entertaining. This is one of the things I most look forward to about Christmas.
Channel 4 1:00pm
The other great alternate version of A Christmas Carol, starring Bill Murray as a Misanthropic TV producer who wants to put an orgy of violence on instead of the traditional Christmas show. Murray is at his sarcastic best, the ghosts are engagingly offbeat (especially Carol Kane’s turn as Christmas Present, who punches Murray into each new vision) and the TV spoofs are great. Best of all, there’s atypically unhinged performance from Bobcat Goldthwait as an underling Murray fires on Christmas eve.
Stranger than Fiction
Channel 5 6:55pm
This really should have been Will Ferrel’s Truman Show, but for some reason people didn’t respond in the same way to this engaging and funny story of a man who wakes up one day to find that his life is being narrated, and he’s the main character in an author’s story. There are a lot of very funny sequences here, many of the best involving Dustin Hoffman as a lierature professor trying to help Ferrell discover what kind of story he’s in, but the heart of the film is the surprisingly touching romance between Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal. A lovely and underseen film.
Channel 4 7:00pm
My love for this movie grow every time I see it, and in fact I think it’s probably Tim Burton’s best film. Burton is ideally suited to fairytales, and Caroline Thompson’s magical screenplay gives him a lot to work with. In his first collaboration with Burton, Johnny Depp is simply brilliant as Edward, giving him a charming naiveté and a gentleness that belies his initial appearance as a knife fingered monster. He’s well matched by Winona Ryder; soulful as his love interest and by Dianne Weist, whose kindly Avon lady is the one who brings Edward into the normal world. And surely there can be few more beautiful sequences in 90’s cinema than the one in which Ryder dances as Depp’s Edward carves and ice sculpture of an angel.
Channel 4 12:10am
It’s an odd time to be showing one of the great horror classics, but even though its not Halloween, that’s no excuse to miss this great Stephen King adaptation. Brian DePalma stays pretty faithful to the book, but adds real cinematic style. However, this movie belongs to Sissy Spacek, who is brilliant as Carrie, convincing at every possible level from the wallflower of the film’s first half, to the iconic image of the pig’s blood drenched girl taking her vengeance.
BBC 1 3:25pm
This film about an animated Disney princess who finds herself sucked into the real New York (and pursued by both her prince and the minions of her evil stepmother) would be pretty much worthless were it not for Amy Adams’ incredibly infectious performance. It helps, of course, that she looks like a cartoon come to life, but it’s the bright eyed wonder with which she regards and engages with everything that makes her performance, and the film, such fun. It’s completely predictable, and Patrick Dempsy is blander than bland as the love interest, but Adams makes Enchanted irresistible through sheer force of charisma.
The Winslow Boy
Channel 5 12:20pm
A real change of pace for David Mamet, best known for making swearing an art form in films like Glengarry Glenn Ross and Heist. This adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s play sees Nigel Hawthorne litigating to retain his family’s honour after his son is expelled from a private school for stealing. Mamet gets terrific performances from Nigel Hawthorne, Jeremy Northam and Mrs Mamet Rebecca Pidgeon, and the dialogue is as gloriously crisp as you’d expect.
Bridge to Terabithia
BBC 1 11:20am
You may want to sit down with you young children to watch this lovely film about two young friends (played by the remarkable Josh Hutcherson and Annasophia Robb) who create an imaginary magical kingdom in the woods behind their homes, because it’s not the Narnia like film it was sold as. It’s something much more powerful, and much more meaningful, but it does take one genuinely upsetting turn that the tinies will find hard to take. It’s a beautiful and emotional film, and tragically underseen and underrated. DO. NOT. MISS. IT.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
The Living Daylights
ITV 1 3:00pm
This underrated Bond movie stars my favourite Bond actor, Timothy Dalton, who brought a harder edge to the role 20 years before Daniel Craig and features on of the most beautiful of all the Bond Girls in the lovely form of Marayam D’Abo. The plot is the usual nonsense, but Dalton’s great and the set pieces work well (especially the pre-credits sequence), and what would holiday season be without Bond?